Gut-Brain Axis: The Ultimate Communication Channel – Part 2
Dear Longevity Insider,
The vagus nerve has a critical place in our bodies.
It affects our thoughts, many internal organs, and our gastrointestinal system. Some say it is the key to our wellbeing.
Why is all of this important?
The function of the vagus nerve can be impaired by anxiety, poor lifestyle, smoking, alcohol and overworking, as well as lack of proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep – basically whenever the body is in a state of stress.
Simply put, stress inhibits the vagus nerve and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to initiate the ‘fight or flight’ response. Since the vagus nerve plays a role in reducing inflammation, stress can conversely cause inflammation. Therefore, repeated and increased exposure to stress can counteract the parasympathetic system’s ability to help the body recover and contributes to allostatic load, which is the wear and tear of stress on your body and brain. In the end, this could hinder the overall protective effect that the vagus nerve has on the body.
This has particular effects in the gut where an inhibited vagus nerve has harmful effects on our microbiota and contributes to gastrointestinal disorders such as leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease. This disrupts our metabolic homeostasis and has a cascade of effects on the body. Consequently, it is imperative to do what we can to maintain a healthy and functioning vagus nerve.
Restoring the gut-brain axis
Bringing this full circle, there is an abundance of ways that we can create and bring balance to our all-important gut-brain axis, one of the most significant communication pathways in our bodies. We can monitor our vagal tone, supplement with high quality prebiotics and probiotics, meditate, practice deep breathing, and exercise.
Ways to strengthen vagal tone:
- Gargling vigorously with water after you brush your teeth every morning can strengthen your vagus nerve. This will help improve movement in your digestive tract and can help with constipation and a sluggish bowel.
- Chanting, humming, and singing out loud help to activate the vagus nerve. Next time you’re in your car, sing as loud as you can!
- Deep breathing helps to lower blood pressure and heart rate. Inhale for the count of five, and exhale for a count of five for one minute. This then sends a signal to the brain to stimulate vagal activation and put us in a rest and digest state, rather than fight or flight.
- Tongue depressors stimulate a gag reflex and strengthen the vagus nerve similar to gargling. You can also use your toothbrush and brush your tongue far enough to produce a gag reflex.
- For the busy person, there’s one simple way to stimulate the vagus nerve, and it takes just 5 seconds to do. If you find yourself feeling sleepy, stressed, or lacking focus, you can use this to retune your nervous system. Here’s how it works: take a long deep breath, filling your lungs completely with air, and then let it out slowly. It’s that simple. Try it for yourself.
To your longevity,
Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Officer, Longevity Insider HQ
* Today's content is provided by the Institute for Human Optimization (www.ifho.org).